Donovan Mitchell says Bam Adebayo is a top 5 defender in the NBA

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Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell offered a huge compliment to Bam Adebayo by placing him among his top-five defenders in the NBA.

During an appearance on the “Run Your Race” podcast, Mitchell indicated that his quintet consists of Adebayo, Jrue Holiday, Lu Dort, O.G. Anunoby and a tie between Marcus Smart and Draymond Green.

The inclusion of Adebayo on Mitchell’s list is just the latest example of how much of a factor the Miami Heat big man has become. Since being drafted by the Heat with the 14th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, Adebayo’s continuing development has played a key role in two trips to the NBA Finals.

During Adebayo’s first two seasons with the Heat, he was largely used off the bench. However, even before that second season ended, he began to emerge as an important part of the Heat’s future.

Over the past four campaigns, Adebayo has expanded his production by twice averaging a double-double over an entire season and coming close during the other two campaigns. In addition, he’s averaged more than one steal per game during each of those seasons and been named to one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams four times.

The inclusions of Holiday, Smart and Green should come as no surprise to any close observer of the NBA. All three players have regularly been recognized for their prowess, with multiple selections to those prestigious units.

Both Green and Smart have received an even higher accolade by being tabbed as the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Green won for his efforts during the 2016-17 campaign, and Smart won for his performance during the 2021-22 season.

Adebayo’s inability to make the All-Defensive First Team has been a source of frustration for him. In addition, Adebayo hasn’t been shy about putting himself in the same defensive category as Green and Holiday’s Milwaukee Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Mitchell’s compliment is a feather in the cap of Adebayo, but right now, the big man has other priorities. That mainly includes trying to help the Heat even their NBA Finals series against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

The Heat would prefer not to return to Miami down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. If Adebayo is able to neutralize Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic for the remainder of the series, his status as an elite defender will only be enhanced.

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Brad Sullivan is a freelance writer for, having been an avid fan of NBA basketball for more than four decades. During that time, he's watched the Heat evolve from gestation period to expansion team all the way to three-time NBA champions. He'll follow their quest toward again reaching those lofty heights, and do so by offering some perspective along the way.